Welcome the Hall family to AARC

We are very excited to be new members of AARC! We are a family of four and more, living in two households and with multiple faiths, but united in our journey through life together. We are: Noah, Jennifer, Ella (age 14) and Miles (age 11).  Noah is a law professor at Wayne State University and University of Michigan, Jennifer works at Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Ella is a freshman at Skyline High School, and Miles is a 6th grader at Forsythe Middle School.

Our path to AARC is the result of Miles wanting to explore his Jewish heritage. Noah grew up culturally Jewish in New York and Connecticut, made his bar mitzvah in a Reform temple, but other than that experience, didn’t really spend too much time in a temple at any point in his life.  Jennifer grew up Catholic, attended church every Sunday with her family and graduated from a Catholic high school, but then as a young adult, decided church and religion wasn’t an important part of her life.

When our kids were young, we sought out a faith community to be part of and joined the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, where Jennifer is still an involved member.  This congregation is very welcoming, inclusive of all people, whatever their story and is very much focused on serving the needs of our community.  When our son Miles started asking about his Jewish background and a desire to make his bar mitzvah, we were very pleased to find AARC because it welcomed our family as we are and spoke to all our values of community, inclusivity, and service.

Miles joined the Beit Sefer last year and is looking forward to starting again this fall.  We’ve joined the congregation for a few events, have appreciated how welcomed we’ve already been, and look forward to getting to know everyone more in the future.

Welcome new members Gillian, Alex, Wesley and Wade Jackson

We are so glad to be new members of AARC! We are a family of four: Myself (Gillian), my husband Alex, our 5-year-old Wesley, and our 3-year-old Wade.

We recently relocated to Chelsea from Asheville, NC. We wanted to be closer to family and soon after setting that intention, Alex found his dream job doing sustainable architecture in Ann Arbor. Before living in NC, Alex and I both did undergrad at U of M and Alex got his Masters of Architecture at U of Oregon. Before becoming a stay at home mom, I worked as a medical assistant.

As a family we enjoy gardening, canoeing, hiking, spending time with friends/family, cooking and general adventuring. Wes is starting kindergarten this year and Wade is starting preschool. Wes will also start his second year of Beit Sefer this fall.

I was delighted to find AARC last year during the high holidays. I was raised Reform but hadn’t found a synagogue I resonated with personally until now. I appreciate how the Reconstructionist tradition upholds our culture and traditions with a more humanist and naturalist tilt. I spent a lot of time in Hebrew school as a kid and it was an important part of my identity. I’m glad to be back in the fold and to share it with my own family. I’ve enjoyed everyone I’ve gotten to know over the year and look forward to years to come!

Welcome Sherry and Steve Lessens

Sherry and Steve Lessens returned to Ann Arbor this past summer after a forty year “break.”  Sherry grew up in a Cleveland suburb, and Steve is from the small town of Lowell, MI. They met as undergrads at the University of Michigan and married during grad school.  Steve went to U of M med school and Sherry got a Masters in Counseling while working in Plymouth.  Steve’s residency took them to Milwaukee for a short time, and they finally ended up in Shelby, MI for thirty-eight years.  Shelby is a very small town (1800 people!) along Lake Michigan that is very rural, very conservative, and quite poor. While Steve served as a family doc, Sherry worked as an elementary school counselor. Their temple, B’nai Israel was 30 miles away in Muskegon, but it grew to be an important part of their lives. The membership is less than 80 families, but it includes all denominations of Judaism, and the members became dear friends. Leaving was hard.

The Lessens family includes two children.  David is a family doc in Anchorage, married with two small children, and Jennifer and her husband with two boys live nearby in Okemos.
Once both Steve and Sherry retired, they immediately chose to return to Ann Arbor. They missed the culture, the people, the music, and the availability of great public transportation, to say nothing of being so much closer to a temple, to their daughter,  and getting away from ALL THAT SNOW!! AARC seemed like the perfect fit once they attended the small Friday night service this August at Hillel. They are both anxious to meet new people and expand their religious experiences.

Welcome Kopald Family: Seth, Kathy, Ahava, Clara, and Levi

We are very happy to be a part of AARC.

Our families easily merged together over the last three years, but officially this past July, Kathy and I were married.  At the end of October,  we moved into our renovated home.  We have three wonderful teenagers: Ahava, Clara, and Levi and our dog Hazel.  I was born and raised in the Detroit area, moved to Oregon after college and then to Ann Arbor when Ahava was two.  Kathy, born and raised in Port Austin, came to Ann Arbor to study at U of M.  She fell in love with Ann Arbor and made her home here.  I feel like the luckiest guy in the world that Kathy and Clara have come into our lives and we are truly one happy family.  I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education my working life and now design and build specialty construction projects.  I also work with people as an Internal Family Systems Practitioner.  Kathy is a designer and artist, who works at U-M designing websites and leading and designing high profile campaigns for the Office of the Vice President for Communications.

I found AARC in my search for the right fit for a Jewish community.  I have tried many and like parts of each, but nothing felt just right, until now.  After attending AARC High Holiday services in the past and many events as a member, I believe I found our community.  I think the AARC is an accepting and welcoming group that allows people to be themselves and let their light shine. We look forward to meeting all of you.

Alice Mishkin: new member, familiar face

I first got involved in AARC back when it was the Havurah. While an undergraduate at Michigan, I taught kindergarten to a class full of Elis (who are all now heading to college themselves!). Originally from East Lansing, and having grown up in Kehillat Israel, I found a lot of comfort in the DIY nature of the Havurah.

After graduating from U-M, I spent time in DC, New York, Tel Aviv and the West Bank working with Jewish nonprofits doing human rights and social justice work. I returned to Ann Arbor to complete my Masters in Social Work and Jewish Communal Leadership, and found myself drawn back to the comfort of the AARC community.

I now teach courses in social justice and social identity at U-M and work as a lead organizer with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, an international nonprofit committed to nonviolent resistance to the Occupation.

I live on the West Side with my partner and when these cold, dreary winter months are over you’ll find us taking walks around the West Side, restocking our coffee supply at Argus, and attempting to grow our garden.

After attending a yoga/meditation shabbat last month, I was delighted when Debbie reeled me into joining the AARC and I’m looking forward to being a full member of the community (most importantly getting a permanent name tag)!

 

Introducing Carol Ullmann, Matt McLane, Zander and Ellie

New members Carol Ullmann and Matt McLane both grew up in Michigan, Carol in Rochester Hills and Matt in Portland, not far from Lansing. They met through mutual friends in Ann Arbor while in college. Except for a 2 year “exile” in Northville, they have lived in east A2/west Ypsi/Pittsfield Township since 1999.

Carol and Matt have two delightful children. Zander is a 6th grader at Scarlett and a Boy Scout in Troop 7. He wants to be a programmer. He loves to read, especially books by Rick Riordan. He also loves to cook, play trumpet, draw, and design video games.

Elinor is a 2nd grader at Carpenter Elementary and a Brownie Girl Scout (currently selling cookies!). She loves to go camping and fishing, play board games, and do anything that involves hanging out with other people.

Carol works with AARC member Dave Nelson as a freelance writer, and it was Dave who invited Carol and Matt to check out AARC. After Carol and Ellie attended a Fourth Friday Shabbat service and potluck last May, the family decided the congregation was a good fit for their family. They signed the kids up for Beit Sefer and have been active since.

In describing themselves, Carol says, “Matt is a very capable outdoorsman, a kid at heart, and is assistant scoutmaster for Troop 7. He likes to fearlessly make stuff and is currently building a teardrop camper. I am deeply involved in fiber arts. I write, grow food, teach knitting, and am co-owner of Washtenaw Wool Company, which sells hand-dyed yarn and spinning fiber on Etsy and to local retailers.

New Members Howie Brick and “D” Schwartz

Originally from Long Island (with accents to prove it), Howie and I attended the University of Michigan as undergrads and graduate students. We left Ann Arbor finally (or so we thought) in 1980. At that time, Howie had nearly finished his PhD in American Culture while I had completed an MA in Asian Studies.  The following years found us on the academic ramble, following Howie’s career as a historian of the 20th century USA, from New York, to Chicago, to Boston, to Eugene, OR, to St. Louis. (Yes. We share some history with Clare K.!) All the while, I was doing my thing as a writer and editor in university communications offices. Somewhere in there, we raised two children, Michael and Jessye, who are now grown and out of the house. We were shocked when Michigan came calling again in 2008, but here we are.  I am now enjoying my postwork life, while Howie gives his best to the university.
I am happy to join all the other Debras, Deborahs, Debbies, and Debs. I go by all of those names, so whatever makes you happy, makes me happy. My St. Louis rabbi just calls me “D.”
[Editor’s note: We always ask new members to introduce themselves to the community with a little blog post. Debbie (and Howie occasionally) have been showing up at services for several years, and Debbie and I always have something to talk about (explained above, Eugene! St. Louis!). If you are a new member, or even if you have been a member for a long time, but have never had a profile blog post, contact me (ckinberg@gmail.com), because I’d like to profile you!]

Dafna Eisbruch Writes from Israel

Me, in the back row in the pink shirt, and the friends in my kvutza, or commune. We’re all olim from Habonim Dror America and Australia, and we live in an apartment in Haifa with a beautiful view of northern Israel and the sea

Me, in the back row in the pink shirt, and the friends in my kvutza, or commune. We’re all olim from Habonim Dror America and Australia, and we live in an apartment in Haifa with a beautiful view of northern Israel and the sea

Hi AARC members and friends!

I’m writing to you from Israel to share with you a bit about what I’m up to these days since my childhood in the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Havurah. I work with an organization called Dror Israel, which is a social and educational movement established by graduates of the youth movement Habonim Dror and its Israeli counterparts. We work in all sectors of Israeli society, educating towards equality, faith in humanity, social cohesion and mutual responsibility. We see ourselves as the continuation of the kibbutz movement’s legacy–if a hundred years ago, Israel needed farmers to feed the nation and establish its borders, today Israel needs educators who can unite Ethiopians, Arabs, Russians, Mizrachim and Ashkenazim around a common vision for coexistence and shared society.  We live in communes (“urban kibbutzim”) and run many different types of educational projects.

A meeting between Arab kids I work with in the town of Kfar Manda, and Jewish kids from Afula. They made a wall painting together in Hebrew and Arabic of a quote by poet Saul Tchernichovsky: “Because I still believe in humanity and its brave spirit.”

A meeting between Arab kids I work with in the town of Kfar Manda, and Jewish kids from Afula. They made a wall painting together in Hebrew and Arabic of a quote by poet Saul Tchernichovsky: “Because I still believe in humanity and its brave spirit.”

My main job is in the youth movement, the Noar HaOved veHalomed (Working and Learning Youth). It’s the second biggest youth movement in Israel (with 85,000 participants, it ranks after the scouts and before Bnei Akiva) and is active in most cities and many kibbutzim and Arab villages in Israel, running weekly activities for kids from fourth grade and upwards. Teenagers go to leadership camps and learn to be counselors for elementary schoolers, as well as learning about issues affecting society and meeting with youth from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The motto of the Noar HaOved veHalomed is “our home is open to every girl and boy,” and we believe that building a youth movement where everyone has a place will help us to build a society where everyone has a place.

Another project I’m involved in is a new coexistence museum exhibit on Kibbutz Eshbal, a kibbutz belonging to Dror Israel. The exhibit explores Arab and Jewish culture in the Galilee region, the everyday experience of meeting someone from the other culture in common settings like the mall or the hospital, racism and examples of racism in Israeli society, apathy and its effects, dilemmas of building a shared society (what should be together and what should remain unique and separate?) and profiles of Arabs and Jews working to build partnerships between Arab and Jewish communities in the Galilee. It’s geared toward high school groups, who discuss the challenging questions raised in the exhibit together with a guide. The goal of the exhibit is for students to critically examine the existing relationship between Jews and Arabs, and to invite them to be partners in shaping positive relations. 

High school students from Carmiel discuss the coexistence exhibit with a guide. Since its opening last month, 200 students have visited the exhibit.

High school students from Carmiel discuss the coexistence exhibit with a guide. Since its opening last month, 200 students have visited the exhibit.

A third significant project that Dror Israel runs– and that many of my friends led this year–is a yearly trip to Poland for Israeli high school students to learn about the Holocaust. Visiting Poland is a rite of passage for Israeli eleventh graders, and many students go on trips sponsored by their schools – but those trips can sometimes use the Holocaust to teach problematic nationalistic values, in the spirit of “never again to us at any cost, we must build a strong army to defeat our enemies.” The Noar HaOved veHalomed trip, in contrast, teaches students about the history of European anti-semitism, the rise of Nazism, the ghettos, extermination camps and Jewish rebellion with a focus on understanding human morality. Students learn that they always have a choice between acting to create a just society based on equality, or acting apathetically towards the inequalities in society and thus enabling human suffering. Eight hundred students from all sectors of society participated in the Noar Haoved veHalomed journey to Poland that took place this March. 

Students leading a memorial ceremony for their peers at Łopuchowo, the site of a Nazi massacre of Polish Jews

Students leading a memorial ceremony for their peers at Łopuchowo, the site of a Nazi massacre of Polish Jews

While the cost of traveling to Poland is high, the movement is committed to making the trip available to all youth including high-risk youth. To this end, there is a scholarship fund for the trip. If anyone is interested in donating, here is a link to the fund (in Hebrew).

Those who are interested and social media-savvy can check out the Noar Haoved veHalomed on Instagram.

We also run Habonim Dror’s Israel programs, MBI (a summer tour for students entering eleventh grade) and Workshop (a gap year for high school graduates)! Both programs are cool ways for Jewish kids to experience Israel in ways that speak to AARC’s humanist Jewish values. MBI students meet Israeli kids their age from the Noar HaOved veHalomed, and Workshop participants volunteer in the youth movement.

I think often of my Jewish upbringing at the AARC and love reading the blog to catch up on what’s going on with you. Sending good wishes and happy Passover from Israel,

 

Dafna Eisbruch

dafnation@gmail.com

 

 

Meet our newest member, Patti Smith!

Welcome to AARC’s newest member, Patti Smith!
Patti Smith and Ken Anderson
Here’s what Patti writes about herself:
Since the age of 5, I wanted to live in Ann Arbor. I finally made it happen in my late 20s. I began adult life as a legal aid attorney, but quickly realized that was not going to work out. I switched careers to become a special ed teacher in my mid-30s. I am a late bloomer, but finally settled!
I am married to Ken Anderson, stepmom to two kitty cats (Ali and Cyrus), and we live happily in a very small house near Kerrytown. I am also a writer: I’ve published two local history books, and I write for Concentrate Media and Mittenbrew), and am currently working on selling my YA book. I am involved in the a2Geeks, 826Michigan, the Ann Arbor Film Fest, the Ann Arbor Storytellers’ Guild, the city’s arts commission and recreation advisory commission, and like to do improv and box. I also enjoy hosting dinner parties and recently decided to start hosting salons and be my Gertrude Steinest!
DownTownAnnArbor
And here’s one of the books.  I think Patti is our new Ann Arbor expert!    Please welcome her when she’s next with us.

Barbara Boyk Rust: Spiritual Leader and Teacher

BBRustBarbara Boyk Rust was one of AARC’s founding members.  Eighteen months ago, she was ordained as a spiritual teacher and leader by a Bet Din of four leaders.  Her approach to Jewish observance centers around meditation and sacred chant.  Along with member Allison Stupka, Barbara will be leading our Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday, December 18, at 6:30. Here, Barbara shares with the community some of her thoughts about her recent ordination process:

What prompted you to undertake the process of ordination? What was the preparation like?

Before moving further into spiritual leadership I needed the review and affirmation of others whom I hold as teachers, mentors and guides.  I needed them to say either “yes” or “no” to my sense of being called to teach and lead in a spiritual context.

Early rabbinic ordination, smicha or smichut l’rabanut, involved the laying on of hands from one rabbi to the next.  Some of the meanings of smicha are to rely on, or to be authorized.  Though I am following a unique path, it did not feel appropriate to me to take further steps authorized by myself alone.  Using a template similar to the origins of Jewish rabbinic ordination I held myself accountable to those who teach me and those whom I serve for recognition, validation and affirmation of this step of my journey as a spiritual leader and teacher.

Part of what I shared with them was the story of my journey, recapped briefly here:

I have been pursuing my spiritual path consciously since my mid-teens.  For more than half my life now, individuals, families and communities have asked me to serve as creator, facilitator and leader of holiday and life cycle celebrations.  Long ago, Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi said something to the effect of, ‘if 200 people think you’re a rabbi, you’re a rabbi.’  While I met that criteria long ago, I decided not to complete rabbinic training through the Aleph Rabbinic Program though I was enrolled in it for some years while I completed an interdisciplinary doctorate at The University of Michigan in Higher Education and Clinical Psychology. [Read more…]